COVID-19 forced most healthcare institutions to offer more telehealth services. Now that patients have a taste for home-based care, they will expect more of such services in the future.

In essence, COVID-19 has pushed the idea of a healthcare system built on consumerism to the forefront of the discussion in medical circles. Here are four ways COVID-19 is having an impact on healthcare, and a glimpse of what the future may hold for patients and practitioners.

1. The Demand for Telehealth Will Increase

Many patients used telehealth services for the first time in the past few months to avoid possible exposure to COVID-19. Their experiences will likely increase the demand for this service in the future. Patients will want to continue to avoid exposure, long commutes, and excessive in-office wait time for exams.

Before COVID-19, many consumers accessed telehealth through their insurance company. Consequently, in most cases, they would see a provider that was neither their primary care physician nor specialist. After experiencing the benefits of telehealth, patients are likely to expect their regular providers to start offering telehealth services.

Patients believe that if practitioners can offer telemedicine during a crisis, then they should be able to continue offering the service all the time. As a result, practitioners will likely have to alter how they offer their services to keep pace with an increased demand for telehealth.

2. Increased Interoperability

The lack of tech-savviness in medicine has surprised patients for decades. Patients expect medicine to use technology in the same way, and with as much ease, as other industries. There will likely be a call to reassess universal provider access to healthcare information as patients begin to expect quicker, more efficient healthcare services from their physicians.

COVID-19 has made it abundantly clear that computer systems and software must easily exchange and make use of information in new and improved ways. A shift toward patient populated data and laws that support this are around the corner.

3. A Provider's Location May Temporarily Matter Less

Less affluent patients in suburban and rural areas have typically been affected by the lack of provider choices for specific procedures in their region. With limited funds to travel to facilities outside of their neighborhood and pay to stay at a hotel while they receive services, physician location has given providers in suburban and rural areas a steady flow of business. However, with many patients canceling or postponing medical visits, providers in rural areas in the market of elective procedures are experiencing a hit to their bottom line. Until COVID-19 is a distant memory, rural and suburban providers will probably have to find new ways to attract patients.

For the time being, merely being the only business in town to do a procedure may not be enough. Patients have had a taste of convenience in healthcare with telehealth, and they have realized how much elective procedure providers depend on their business. In the future, patients will expect more from local providers in exchange for their business, at least temporarily; a return to “business as usual” does not hold a lot of appeal to patients, including patients with few provider choices.

4. A Battle over Urgency

COVID-19 has, arguably, driven more change in a short period than any other event in our history — at least where healthcare tech is concerned. Some say that, in modernizing the use of technology in medicine, we have accomplished more in the last three months than we have in the previous three decades.

But, when the pandemic is over, and people act as if they have forgotten COVID-19 was ever a thing, will medicine continue to modernize itself with the same sense of urgency? The extent to which medicine purses technological modernization may be one way to gauge society's readiness and willingness to improve its healthcare system significantly.

COVID-19 Brings Rapid Change to Medicine and Places Consumerism at the Forefront — But, for How Long?

Consumerism-based healthcare is getting a major boost in the COVID-19 pandemic as patients realize that their practitioners are more beholden to them than thought. Primary care physicians and specialists will almost certainly have to continue to offer telehealth services after COVID-19, now that patients wield the upper hand in controlling how and when they pursue routine visits, basic office exams, and elective procedures.

But, how long will this shift to consumerism-based healthcare last? Will we continue to devote the same time and energy into modernizing the delivery of healthcare or will we fall back to the way it has always been done?